Advocacy Group in India Dances for Visibility and Equal Rights

Advocacy Group in India Dances for Visibility and Equal Rights

By Abhina Aher, HRC Global Innovator and Founder of Dancing Queens

For the last 14 years, Dancing Queens – a dance troupe made up of transgender and other LGBTQ people – has created magic on stage through dance and drama to advocate for queer rights and visibility. We now have 25 dancers, after initially starting off with just three transgender women who had a passion for dancing. Transgender women and especially hijras* (an ancient third gender identity in South Asia for people who are outside the traditional male or female binary) in India have traditionally used dancing and singing to beg for money for their survival. Hijras face constant humiliation, violence and rejection from society and their own families.

Last Sunday, Dancing Queens held an event that was a part of Mumbai Pride and supported by HRC through the Global Partnerships in Pride program. It highlighted stigma and discrimination against sexual and gender minorities in India. More than 200 people attended our colorful and engaging performance which was organized by the Transgender Welfare, Equity and Empowerment Trust (TWEET) Foundation.

“I dance with my transgender daughter because I want to show my strength and happiness in accepting my kid as she is!”, my 70-year-old mother, Managala Aher, said to a journalist before she walked on stage to perform a dance number last week.

It was not been an easy journey for my troupe of talented dancing queens. We had to train transgender women and hijras – who were begging on streets and often engaged in sex work and had no formal dance training – to become professional dancers.  

In the question and answer session after the performances, we discussed important issues around family acceptance, employment and discrimination with the audience.

I am glad that Dancing Queens is strengthening efforts at LGBTQ and transgender acceptance with every performance in India and am grateful to HRC for supporting this event.



#AM_Equality Tipsheet: August 18, 2017

OUR HEARTS GO OUT TO THE VICTIMS OF THE BARCELONA TERRORIST ATTACK: Yesterday, at least 13 lives were senselessly taken when a van plowed into a crowd of people in Las Ramblas, a popular tourist area, and another person was killed during a police shootout with suspected terrorists in Cambrils, west of Barcelona. An additional 100 people were injured in the Barcelona attack. We must stand strong in the face of hatred, and come together to stand against violence. More from CNN.


PRESIDENT IMPLIES VIOLENCE AGAINST MUSLIM COMMUNITY BY SHARING BOGUS TALE OF GENERAL PERSHING: The mortifying story, which Trump tweeted he would “study up on,” involves General John J. Pershing shooting 49 Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood — and telling the 50 victim to return to their home and tell others what they saw. This horrifying and debunked story is yet another nationalist, anti-Islamic move by the leader of our country. More from The Washington Post.

NEW YORK GOVERNOR TO INSURERS — YOU CAN’T DISCRIMINATE AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE:  In a letter issued this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration tells health insurers that they cannot deny coverage to or otherwise discriminate against people based on their gender identity. The action comes after reports that the Trump Administration is poised to roll back Obama-era Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidance that prohibits most insurers from discriminating on the basis of sex — including gender identity — when providing health coverage. More from The Associated Press.

FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: Newlyweds Tom Daley (@TomDaley) and Dustin Lance Black (@DLanceBlack) recently released their wedding video. The pair were married on May 6 in Bovey Castle in Devon surrounded by friends, including HRC President Chad Griffin. They are donating the ad revenue from the wedding video to LGBTQ organizations — LGBT+ Switchboard and It Gets Better. More from BuzzFeed.


NEW STUDY — MORE THAN HALF OF PARENTS WOULD SUPPORT A TRANS CHILD: The online survey conducted on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association found that 53 percent of those polled would support their child if they came out as transgender. More from Pink News.

HRC MOURNS GWYNEVERE RIVER SONG, TRANS PERSON MURDERED IN DALLAS: HRC was saddened to learn that Gwynevere River Song was shot and killed in Dallas over the weekend, marking the 17th known homicide of a transgender person this year.  Song, 26, died in their home after an argument escalated into a violent altercation, according to the Advocate, which cites reporting from a local paper that misgendered and misnamed Song. Song was a 2015 graduate of the University of Texas in Austin. They identified as femandrogyne and a member of the bisexual community. More from HRC.

HRC ALSO MOURNS HOLLY BOSWELL, CREATOR OF TRANSGENDER SYMBOL: Transgender pioneer Holly Boswell, who created the powerful transgender symbol, passed away at 66 in Asheville, N.C. More from NewNowNext.

HRC WELCOMING SCHOOLS TRAINS MADISON, WISC. SCHOOL DISTRICT: Elementary school teachers are learning how to create more inclusive classrooms for LGBTQ students, with guidance from HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools, the nation’s premier professional development program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools. More from HRC.

HISTORY LESSON OF THE WEEK: Euphemia Charlton Fortune’s impressionist paintings of the California countryside appear in over 70 churches across the country. She was also a lesbian, and turned heads in the early 1900s by wearing suits, living happily unmarried and having a successful career. More from Advocate.

NORTHERN IRELAND JUDGE DISMISSES MARRIAGE EQUALITY CASES: High Court Judge Justice O’Hara claimed he could not base his judgment on “social policy.” Northern Ireland is the only holdout in the United Kingdom without marriage equality. More from BBC.

  • Some equality advocates are looking to British Prime Minister Theresa May to intervene. More from Belfast Telegraph.

ICYMI — UGANDAN PRIDE SHUT DOWN FOR SECOND CONSECUTIVE YEAR: On Tuesday, LGBTQ activists in Uganda received the shocking news that the events had been shut down by Minister of Ethics Simon Lokodo. This disturbing development follows last year’s police raid on the Pride festival, which resulted in dozens of arrests. More from HRC.


NewNowNext previews eight books with LGBTQ themes coming out soon; HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools is streaming a training video titled “What Can We Do? Bias, Bullying & Bystanders” on its website; NewNowNext highlights 11 drag queens fighting for LGBTQ equality around the world; Mic shares that Kordal Lewis and Kaleb Anthony will be the first Black LGBTQ family to represent a high-fashion brand

Have news? Send us your news and tips at Click here to subscribe to #AM_Equality and follow @HRC for all the latest news. Thanks for reading!

HRC Responds to Steve Bannon’s Removal From White House Position

Today, HRC released the following statement following news of the departure of Steve Bannon from the White House staff.

“A radical white nationalist like Steve Bannon should never have been put in a position of public trust in any White House,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC’s Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “His removal was necessary, but make no mistake, the bigotry in the White House goes far beyond one person. President Trump and Vice President Pence continue to push forward the same dangerous and hateful vision for America and the world that Steve Bannon embodies.”

Uganda Government Shuts Down Pride for Second Consecutive Year

Post submitted by Jeremy Kadden and Saurav Jung Thapa

For the second consecutive year, Ugandan officials have shut down Pride celebrations in Kampala, the capital. On August 16, after months of careful negotiations with their government to organize low-key pride celebrations, LGBTQ activists in Uganda received the shocking news that the events had been shut down by Minister of Ethics Simon Lokodo. This disturbing development follows last year’s police raid on the pride festival, which resulted in dozens of arrests.

HRC partnered with Uganda Pride last year and was sponsoring one of the main Pride events this year through HRC’s Global Partnerships in Pride program.

“This action by the Ugandan government to shut down Pride is a clear violation of LGBTQ Ugandan’s human rights,” said HRC Global Director Ty Cobb. “Ugandan citizens have the right to peacefully assemble and celebrate. The Ugandan government must reverse course and permit this gathering to proceed. Anything less is an assault on fundamental human rights”

In a public statement, Uganda Pride organizers said that “extra precaution was taken in organising this year’s festival” because of the raid on last year’s festival. Nevertheless, on August 16, they found “police surrounding the venue of the opening gala.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) said the announcement came as a “wicked stab in the back” because in early August, “Minister Lokodo in his office welcomed and spoke with SMUG officials, Pride organizers and allies.” SMUG believed that meeting represented “a ray of hope,” since SMUG and their allies had agreed to Lokodo’s restrictions that there be no so-called “promotion, recruitment, and exhibition” during the events.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, a strongman who has held onto power since 1986, signed the country’s infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill in February 2014. Though the Constitutional Court subsequently invalidated it in August the same year, the law created a violent backlash against the LGBTQ Ugandan community that persists to this day. President Museveni won re-election in 2016 in polls that  international electoral observers asserted “fell short of key democratic benchmarks,” noting the arrest of opposition party members and the shutdown of social media sites.

Another law affecting the LGBTQ community and activists is the Non-Governmental Organizations Act. Passed in November 2015, it requires all non-government organizations to apply for a permit in order to operate and gives authorities the ability to jail leaders of organizations if their message is “against public interests.” The measure threatens to stop the work of organizations including SMUG, as well as the work of other international NGOs in Uganda. Under President Museveni’s authoritarian rule, the situation remains grim for LGBTQ groups and activists and they are unable to advocate peacefully. 

HRC will continue to provide updates as this story develops. Read more about our work here.

HRC Foundation’s Groundbreaking Conference Supporting LGBTQ Youth to be Held in Orlando

The HRC Foundation, in partnership with the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA), will hold its nationally-acclaimed Time to THRIVE Conference February 16-18 at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek in Orlando. Toyota will again be a presenting sponsor.

In its fifth year, this premier event of the HRC Foundation, HRC’s educational arm, will address the safety, inclusion and well-being of LGBTQ and questioning youth. The event brings together a wide range of youth-serving professionals to discuss best practices for working with and caring for LGBTQ youth and their families in schools, community centers, health care settings and beyond.

“As we approach the back to school season, counselors, teachers, social workers and other professionals know they are on the front lines of creating safe and inclusive spaces where our LGBTQ youth can live, learn and thrive,” said Vincent Pompei, Director of HRC’s Youth Well-Being Project and Time to THRIVE Conference chair. “At a time when too many people — from our school classrooms to the highest levels of government offices — have been emboldened to bully marginalized and vulnerable people, including young students, it’s never been more important to have professionals fighting for the equal treatment of LGBTQ youth.”

HRC’s Time to THRIVE is the premier national convening of educators and youth-serving professionals to build awareness and cultural competency, learn current and emerging best practices, and gather resources from leading experts and national organizations in the field. To register, visit

HRC Foundation is also accepting Time to THRIVE workshop proposals. Click here to download a save the date flyer.


A Weekend with the Young Democrats of America

Last weekend, Western Regional Field Organizer Christopher Cooke was in Dallas representing HRC at the Young Democrats of America’s 2017 National Convention. HRC’s continued partnership and sponsorship of the conference reflects our commitment to providing young leaders and LGBTQ advocates with training and tools essential to working to advance equality, and stop anti- LGBTQ legislation and other efforts to that seek to marginalize our community.

Cooke trained young leaders on “Building the Resistance,” and also on the importance of allyship and coalition building. In addition to his work at HRC, Cooke has been a part of the Young Democrats of America for 11 years and currently serves at its Southwest Region Director. HRC served on the convention planning committee and assisted with programming for the 2017 convention.

Pennsylvania State Rep. Brian Sims was featured at one of the sessions sponsored by HRC, along with HRC Volunteers MJ Shuman and Amy Tate. Shuman and Tate spoke about the harmful legislation being proposed and the harmful real life hurtful impacts. HRC training on lobbying and an open discussion on organizing in local communities was also offered.

During the conference, news broke about the violence in Charlottesville. In typical fashion, Young Democrats organized members to unanimously adopt a resolution condemning the attack and pledged the organization to its continued stand against racism. 

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